(Islamabad) A three day Community of Practice (CoP) “Advocating for Minority Language groups in Pakistan” was held last week in Rawalpindi. The main objective of this CoP, among other was to establish a common understanding of the concept of voice and advocacy, exploring how advocacy is important for social change and development. 15 members from partner CBOs in northern Pakistan attended it.
A series of training courses titled as Identity Based Community Development (IBCD) concluded at FLI office in Islamabad last month. The main outcome of the IBCD certificate program was that “Community-based organizations in northern Pakistan have the capacity to effectively implement and manage their own identity-based community development strategies.” The primary goals of the first part of this course were that the participants had the introduction to the interplay of interpersonal skills and diversity in an organizational setting. Secondly they identified the benefits and challenges of a diverse work environment along with getting the understanding of unifying and motivating effects that influence the core values in an organization. They became aware of the system of how to think and identify the strength and weaknesses in the organizational system and also the learning loops.
They knew that how to become leaders and the challenges they will face after they hold the leading position.
Twelve participants from nine different language communities of northern and southern Pakistan took part in the sessions. All the participants of the event were directors, finance officers, coordinators, and supervisors of respective community-based organizations.
The sessions were facilitated by Muhammad Zaman, Naseem Haider, Shams Ali, Ms. Bushra Malik, Fazal Hadi and Ms. Amy.
Gilgit is the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan and home to seven beautiful languages, with Shina as the lingua franca. Among the other six languages is Burushaski, a language incredibly unique due to its not belonging to any known family of languages. It was in this city of particularly unique linguistic diversity that FLI held a six day workshop titled “Planning for the Future of Your Language” specifically intended for the Shina speech community in mid-July. Four members from the Shina speech community participated in the program, giving their full time and attention during these six days to identifying the current status of their language. They also committed to play any role they can to bring their mother tongue to a point first of sustainable orality, then sustainable literacy. The participants included young journalists, a drama writer, students, and a poet of Urdu and Shina. The FLI team was glad to work with a group of enthusiastic people who loved their culture and language and were eager to help them reach their goals for their mother tongue.
The FLI team also met various people during the advocacy meeting that was held concurrent with the workshop, which included a visit to Karakuram International University, Gilgit. FLI plans to hold an MLE conference in this prestigious university next year, and in order to gather information and build relationships toward that purpose, they met with several relevant people and discussed related issues with them.
As part of this group of activities in Gilgit, FLI held a half day seminar for the local journalists in Gilgit on 27 July 2016. The program was held at the Gilgit Press Club and all the members of the local journalist’s forum were invited, more than two dozen of whom attended the event. The purpose of the Media Seminar was to sensitize the journalist fraternity towards the regional languages of Gilgit-Baltistan and issues related to these language communities. Various presentations were given on these regional languages, their issues and potential positive ways of addressing these issues, the impact of early childhood mother tongue based multilingual education, and the role of the media in the preservation and promotion of regional languages. UNESCO’s short film on MTB-MLE was also displayed. As a result of this event, many journalists of Gilgit are now aware of their languages’ assets and have resolved to highlight the issues of local language communities in the future. They were asked to press their policy makers to legislate in favor of language promotion in Gilgit-Baltistan. These FLI activities in Gilgit were well covered by the local media and seemed to be appreciated by linguists of the Shina language as well as many others in the region.
The Forum for language Initiatives conducted a six-day workshop in the Gawri speech community called, “Workshop for Planning the Future of Our Language” during last week of May 2016 in Kalam, Swat.
Four participants from different areas of the Gawri speech community were trained as mother tongue facilitators. The main purpose of this workshop was to train MT facilitators from the Gawri speech community to use The Guide to facilitate discussions with representatives in their respective speech communities to increase awareness about language use, develop plans for the future of their language and engage more people in different ways to carry out those plans and achieve their goals. The trainers included Muhammad Zaman, Amir Haider and Ejaz Ahmed. More workshops of this kind are planned this year; in July for Sheena speech community and in August for Torwali speech community.
The Executive Director of FLI, Mr. Fakhruddin Akhunzada, called on representatives of the Ushojo language community yesterday in Madyan, Swat. He congratulated them for having their language, Ushojo, documented under a project which FLI recently concluded. The Ushojo people paid great tribute to the Forum for Language Initiatives for documenting their language and giving the language a written form. The Ushojo people are happy to write in their mother tongue for the first time and poets, writers and researchers from this community who were trained by FLI have started writing their views in their language. They are now also teaching other people to read and write in their own language.
Many reports revealed in recent past that the Yidgha language, spoken in Lotkuh valley of district Chitral will vanish in a decade or so owing to being just an oral language. New generations had stopped learning their mother tongue and the parents preferred Khowar for their children.
The contemporary language activism in the north has influenced the Yidgha people who started realizing the importance of their heritage language. They established organizations for awareness campaign within their community and save their language.
FLI joined them with the support of its partners; NRSP-SGAFP (USAID) with a program and provided the Yidgha people with a writing system so that they could save their heritage language through documentation. With technical support of FLI and financial by USAID they have reached the milestone. Today the Yidgha is no more just a combination of sounds but has gotten a writing system and started to be used for written communication.
Above image is a leaf from how they have embarked on a journey to promote their language in social media. They are curious and have found some similarity between their own language and Pashto. We endorse it and apprise them of relation that Pashto and Yidgha both are Indo-Iranian and belong to the same family.
One more lesser-known language of northern Pakistan, Kalasha has started the journey of preservation and promotion. Spoken in three beautiful valleys of district Chitral; Bamburat, Berir and Rumbur the Kalasha has been taken up by Ayon and Valleys Development Progam (AVDP) with the financial support of SGAFP-USAID aiming to develop the language through documentation.
Forum for Language Initiatives (FLI) is a key partner in this venture providing technical support to the community and helping them preserve their wealth of language and culture.
A one-week orthography workshop took place in Kalasha Dur Bumburat, Chitral to discover ways for a standardized writing system and improve and unify the already existing alphabets for the language. Under the program Kalasha researchers will be trained and equipped to document their mother tongue, disseminate awareness within the community to preserve their culture and bring out publications in their language.
Chitral: 12 April 2016
FLI has published eight books, two in each of four languages indigenous to northern Pakistan. The four extremely endangered languages, of which three are spoken in district Chitral, had previously been used only for oral communication, but have now successfully been provided with a writing system under a USAID-funded documentation project.
Yidgha, Dameli and Gawarbati, spoken in different valleys of the district of Chitral, and Ushojo, spoken in Swat, have joined the ranks of languages being used for written communication. These new books contain bilingual word lists and alphabets, all the information necessary both to begin using a language for written communication and to document a language for preservation purposes.
Under this project, FLI selected two people from each language community to train in language documentation and development principles. These individuals then later held training workshops in their respective communities and trained an average of ten people per community, enabling each community to effectively document their language. Together with support from the wider language communities, research was initiated to identify the unique sounds and elements of each language, develop their alphabets, collect folktales reflecting the rich heritage of each language’s culture, and then publish the resulting work in both written and audio formats that can be used by these communities for generations to come.
FLI arranged a two weeks long website development workshop, last week for vernacular languages here in Islamabad and enabled some 18 representatives of 10 language communities to have online pages for their mother tongues.
Forum for Language Initiatives, Islamabad provided the language activists with opportunity to boost their online visibility including Shina, Palula, Khowar, Gawri, Torwali, Indus Kohistani, Hindko and Gojri spoken in northern Pakistan who got their webpages activated the same day the workshop concluded.
The milestone will not only facilitate the communities to project their activities but also provide a platform for extensive contacts, sharing of ideas, and will be strengthening their relations by allowing them communicate through the modern means of communication and information sharing. The communities have published their websites along with posting their materials on the platform to let the world know about their good work for preservation and promotion of their mother tongues.
It’s hoped that the fully active websites of our local languages will cement the ties between the communities and language activists which will result in extensive cooperation among language groups of the region gathering support for the promotion of linguistic heritage of Pakistan.
A Khowar book containing more than 357 proverbs of the language spoken dominantly in the district of Chitral has been published with Urdu translation. FLI provided technical and financial support to the young author, Afsar Ali Khan in his effort to bring out the fascinating document in his native language. The Khowar (also known as Chitrali) is one of the rare languages spoken in the northern Pakistan which have been used for writing, though for odd purposes, the current collection, titled as Khowar Matalan Gurzain (a pool of Chitrali proverbs) is yet another but handsome addition.
FLI, the forum for language initiatives, a resource center for preservation and promotion of the minor languages of northern Pakistan has been facilitating the people and group of people in documenting their mother tongues for the purpose of their conservation and development by providing documentation training, software tools and other technical support and monetary funding. Mr. Afsar is one of dozen other enthusiasts who completed their book and took the job of serving their mother tongue who were trained by the FLI.
Mr. Afsar, a young linguist, hailing from the beautiful town of Mastuj, has been in the field of language development for years running MLE schools in Khowar language for preschool aged kids in his town Mastuj, district Chitral. The Khowar language owes him a lot of honor for the services he is rendering. The recent contribution in the form of compilation of Khowar proverbs will benefit not only the speech community of Chitral but also the academia for further research in the language in days to come. Congratulating him on his maiden achievement we wish him best of luck for his future endeavors in the field of language development and pledge all our support in his cause which matches the best with ours.